The coronavirus brought North American car factories to a halt, saw automobile sales drop drastically, and made traffic across state lines frowned upon for everyone that isn’t an essential worker. With everything going on with the pandemic, Lyft thought it was best to suspend its self-driving car tests. With shelter-in-place orders in place in a lot of California, the ride-sharing company had no choice but to push the pause button on its testing. Now, operations are restarting again.
Lyft’s Autonomous Cars Are Testing Again
Lyft’s Level 5 program took to Medium to announce that the company’s autonomous vehicle program is back up and running again in California. More specifically, Lyft claims its cars are physically out in Palo Alto and at its closed test track.
Like nearly every other company that has reopened its doors since the beginning of the pandemic, Lyft claims that it’s following guidelines set by the CDC in regard to surface cleaning and personal protective equipment. The company has also implemented safety steps to ensure its employees are safe from the spread of COVID-19. On the inside of the driverless cars, the two safety operators are separated by a partition. Operators must pass a temperature check and wear face shields. Furthermore, operators are paired with one another for two weeks at a time as a further safety precaution.
Since California was under a shelter-in-place order for the past few months, Lyft has relied on simulators to complete its autonomous testing. Lyft Level 5 claims it has a purpose-built simulation that’s meant to foster the growth of its autonomous tech. The company claims its simulator has two dominant modes: log replay and synthetic simulation. The former allows the company to replay data from previous real-world road testing to see how updated software behaves. The latter develops an exact situation and explore a specific scenario in a created virtual world for the autonomous vehicle to tackle.
Lyft Continues To Make Strides
“Testing AVs in the real world is necessary, but can also be limiting,” stated Lyft Level 5. “Training inputs like weather and pedestrian behavior are limited to what’s happening in the world at each moment, and it can be unpredictable when you encounter a rare obstacle a second time. If reliant upon on-road miles, it may take some number of billions of miles to test everything. Simply put, the scale makes it impractical to rely only on road miles.”
As its name implies, Lyft Level 5 refers to the SAE automated driving level that states the autonomous car can handle all of the driving without the need of a human driver. The company came out in the middle of 2017 and started testing vehicles on public roads in late 2018. Before the end of 2019, Lyft Level 5 had 19 self-driving vehicles that were being used for testing on public roads.
Between December 2018 to November 2019, those vehicles covered 43,000 miles on their own. While that figure dwarfs numbers Waymo’s putting up, it’s much better than it was before.